Admiring the perfection of a perfectly ripe avocado in the grocery store the other day, I overheard a lady next to me say, “oh look honey, fresh coconut water. I’ve heard that’s really healthy. They say it’s really good for you.”
It caught my ear because I love coconut water and I drink a ton of it. I love the taste. It goes in just about every post-workout protein shake that I make.
But healthy? I dunno. I guess it’s not unhealthy. But who’s to say it’s healthy? What the hell does that even mean?
Now while coconut water most definitely has plenty of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals and I would certainly argue that it’s better than a sugar-infused sports drink, there still is quite a bit of sugar in coconut water, and if you’re not that active, drinking coconut water by the liter might not be that healthy at all.
As always, it’s that darn context thing. It always depends.
But think about those 2 words for a second– they say – We hear it so much in our culture that we almost become immune to it:
- They say kale is healthy.
- They say carbs will make you fat.
- They say you need to eat breakfast.
- They say you need to do cardio to lose fat.
- They say that lifting weights is dangerous.
Why These 2 Words Are Dangerous As Hell
First of all, who the hell is “they?” Most likely, “they” have some interest that you’re unaware of. Most likely, “they” have an opinion that might or might not be based on real science or evidence. And a lot of the times, “they” don’t know what the hell “they” are talking about anyway. It’s important to be little skeptical and question who “they” are. A good start is to ask these 3 questions:
- Do you trust them?
- Are they selling you something?
- Are they incentivized, financially or otherwise, to maybe ignore facts that might go against their claim?
Remember, food companies are sophisticated profit driven machines with deep pockets and savvy marketing strategies designed to make you want their product. And while there might be “research” behind some of these claims, quite often they are poorly designed studies that are funded by the industries that are highly incentivized to find a positive connection between their product and the desired outcome.
Science Isn’t Perfect, But It’s The Best We Have
Leave it to Jon Oliver to explain this one. In short, the scientific method works. But unfortunately, the way the current system is set up and the media’s love affair with sensational headlines, many times what we read or see on the mainstream news headline is far from what the actually study showed.
Avoid This #1 Mistake
The one mistake that so many of us make is mistaking correlation for causation. In other words, just because 1 variable correlates to another doesn’t mean it caused it to happen. Correlation happens all the time, many times by randomness.
We can’t make the mistake of looking at correlation and mistaking it for causation.
A good example that I wrote about recently is about running and leanness. Many people think that because many runners are lean that a logical conclusion would be that running causes you to be lean. But that’s simply not the case. They might correlated – many runners are lean – but it is NOT the running that causes people to be lean. The true cause of leanness has more to do with nutrition habits and daily activity levels rather than the simply act of running.
If we want to get ridiculous, a skilled statistician can make anything that’s correlated look like there is a cause and effect relationship.
Check out this chart above that compares pool drownings and films Nicolas Cage appeared in. As you see on the graph, these 2 things are very much correlated…but causation?? I think you know the answer to that one.
Red Flag Healthy Foods
The worse offenders of this correlation / causation mistake are the supposed “healthy” foods. It’s not that these foods are good or bad, it’s just that you need to look a little closer at what’s going on.
What are the claims based on? Who funded the study? Could there be information out there that contradicts their claim?
Some of the ones to be on the lookout for:
- Anything gluten free
- Anything “Bulletproof”, especially bulletproof coffee
- Anything that’s labeled a “superfood”
- Anything that’s labeled “all natural”
- Most pre-bottled juices
- All pre-bottled smoothies
One of the most prevalent examples is with the whole gluten thing – “they say” gluten is bad for you. Gluten intolerance is a serious deal if you have celiac’s disease. There’s also a small percentage of people who might be sensitive as well.
It’s more likely that if you do feel poorly after consuming gluten products (breads, pastries, processed foods), it could be that your own body has developed a sensitively to a category of foods called FODMAPS (and gluten happens to be in there). Here is additional reading on this if interested.
But just because your yoga teacher or sister in law is having success with gluten free doesn’t in any way mean that it’s healthy and good for you. Many times, it’s quite the opposite.
In fact, in order to make these processed foods more palatable without the binding properties of gluten, additional sugars and all sorts of other crap are added to these supposed “health” foods. All of a sudden, you have a gluten-free snack that has twice the sugar of a piece of fruit. Now while sugar isn’t evil, it’s been pretty well documented that overconsumption of sugar can lead to many health complications that we’re dealing with today included diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure just to name a few.
What Can You Do? Let Us Do The Work
I know this stuff is complicated. Maybe you don’t have the time to dig into the research. Well, good news. That’s what we’re here for. We love this stuff and are always sorting through the latest study and uncovering what the heck is really going on. And most importantly, it’s discovering a plan of action specifically designed for YOU, what works for your body, your lifestyle, your needs, your wants, and ultimately your goals.
This is exactly what we do with our online coaching program. If you’re feeling stuck and want us to do the work for you so you can become alive in a body you love, and have the confidence to go out into the world and live an inspired awesome life, fill out this quick form here. It takes less than 2 minutes.